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What it’s really like to live among African youth gangs

Tarneit, about 25km west of Melbourne, has been under siege by African teens
The local Ecoville Comm..

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  • Tarneit, about 25km west of Melbourne, has been under siege by African teens
  • The local Ecoville Community Park has been trashed and become a no-go zone
  • Families say they are scared of gangs of youths drinking and taking over streets
  • Police have increased their presence with regular high-visibility patrols
  • Parents are concerned the youths will return when the police presence drops

By Stephen Gibbs In Tarneit, Victoria For Daily Mail Australia

Published: 01:56 EST, 4 January 2018 | Updated: 02:06 EST, 4 January 2018

Fearful residents have described what it is like to live in a Melbourne suburb plagued by gangs of African youths blamed for destroying a community centre and running amok.

Tarneit, about 25 kilometres west of Melbourne, is named after the local indigenous Wathaurong word for white.

First used for agricultural grazing in the 1830s, large-scale subdivision began only in the 1990s. Tarneit is less than 20 minutes from Werribee Open Range Zoo, which is what some residents say it has become.

Families such as the Bukas, who left the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa for a better life in Australia, have instead been besieged by youth gangs from their home continent's north.

Bibicha Mahungu (far left), Chanel Kyungu (second from left), Anna Buka ( in purple T-shirt) and Samy Buka (far right holding baby Blessing) pictured at their Tarneit home this week 

Bibicha Mahungu (far left), Chanel Kyungu (second from left), Anna Buka ( in purple T-shirt) and Samy Buka (far right holding baby Blessing) pictured at their Tarneit home this week

Police, at least one of whom had been called from Ecoville Community Park, arrest a teenager at Tarneit Central shopping centre during violent confrontations on Wednesday afternoonPolice, at least one of whom had been called from Ecoville Community Park, arrest a teenager at Tarneit Central shopping centre during violent confrontations on Wednesday afternoon

Police, at least one of whom had been called from Ecoville Community Park, arrest a teenager at Tarneit Central shopping centre during violent confrontations on Wednesday afternoon

The Ecoville Community Park centre at Tarneit in Melbourne's west has been so thoroughly vandalised it cannot be used by the neighbourhood it was built to serviceThe Ecoville Community Park centre at Tarneit in Melbourne's west has been so thoroughly vandalised it cannot be used by the neighbourhood it was built to service

The Ecoville Community Park centre at Tarneit in Melbourne's west has been so thoroughly vandalised it cannot be used by the neighbourhood it was built to service

The Ecoville Community Park building in Cindia Crescent at Tarneit has been trashed by vandals; locals blame the property damage on gangs of Sudanese and South Sudanese youthsThe Ecoville Community Park building in Cindia Crescent at Tarneit has been trashed by vandals; locals blame the property damage on gangs of Sudanese and South Sudanese youths

The Ecoville Community Park building in Cindia Crescent at Tarneit has been trashed by vandals; locals blame the property damage on gangs of Sudanese and South Sudanese youths

The suburb has lately drawn national attention because of the anti-social and sometimes criminal behaviour of youths with Sudanese and South Sudanese backgrounds.

The centre of the Tarneit problems has been the privately-owned Ecoville Community Park in Cindia Crescent, which over the past few months has been so trashed it is now boarded up.

Where once children played, broken glass and debris litter the ground, while every surface of the community centre building has been painted with graffiti.

Much of that vandalism has been attributed to a group calling itself MTS, or Menace To Society, whose presence emerged after the earlier exploits of the more prominent Apex gang.

Daily Mail Australia spoke to four young African teenagers near the centre on Tuesday. One 15-year-old said he was there only to 'have a couple of toughies' – cigarettes – because his mum wouldn't let him smoke at home.

On Wednesday, we witnessed three African teenagers being arrested at the nearby Tarneit Central shopping centre after a violent confrontation in which at least one of them repeatedly spat at police.

One of three teenagers arrested at Tarneit Cenral shopping centre amid a high-visibility policing operation launched to deter young Africans from causing trouble One of three teenagers arrested at Tarneit Cenral shopping centre amid a high-visibility policing operation launched to deter young Africans from causing trouble 

One of three teenagers arrested at Tarneit Cenral shopping centre amid a high-visibility policing operation launched to deter young Africans from causing trouble

Officers stationed at a mobile police facility parked outside the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit where African youths have been accused of running amok in recent months Officers stationed at a mobile police facility parked outside the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit where African youths have been accused of running amok in recent months 

Officers stationed at a mobile police facility parked outside the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit where African youths have been accused of running amok in recent months

Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, about 25km west of Melbourne, has been so damaged by marauding youths its managers have had to board up the main building (pictured)Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, about 25km west of Melbourne, has been so damaged by marauding youths its managers have had to board up the main building (pictured)

Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, about 25km west of Melbourne, has been so damaged by marauding youths its managers have had to board up the main building (pictured)

A teenager is detained by police outside the Tarneit Central shopping centre on Wednesday afternoon after a violent confrontation in which two other young people were arrestedA teenager is detained by police outside the Tarneit Central shopping centre on Wednesday afternoon after a violent confrontation in which two other young people were arrested

A teenager is detained by police outside the Tarneit Central shopping centre on Wednesday afternoon after a violent confrontation in which two other young people were arrested

Uniformed and plain clothes officers have been conducting regular patrols of the community centre, shopping centres and surrounding streets in marked and unmarked cars this week.

The high-visibility operation has largely driven the wandering African youth from Cindia Crescent and brought some peace to the neighbourhood but residents are still concerned that when the police leave the gangs will return.

Samy Buka left the Congo four years ago and has been living with his family in Cindia Crescent for just one month. He previously lived for six months in another Tarneit street.

The 39-year-old shares a house with his wife Chanel Kyungu, 31, daughters Anna, 9, and Blessing, one.

When Daily Mail Australia met the Buka clan this week Anna was wearing an 'I love Australia' T-shirt.

'We're happy having our family here,' Anna says of her adopted country.

Samy Buka (left) with daughter Anna (in purple T-shirt), sister-in-law Bibicha Mahungu and baby Blessing outside the family's home in Cincia Crescent at Tarneit, west of MelbourneSamy Buka (left) with daughter Anna (in purple T-shirt), sister-in-law Bibicha Mahungu and baby Blessing outside the family's home in Cincia Crescent at Tarneit, west of Melbourne

Samy Buka (left) with daughter Anna (in purple T-shirt), sister-in-law Bibicha Mahungu and baby Blessing outside the family's home in Cincia Crescent at Tarneit, west of Melbourne

Empty drink bottles, cigarette butts and other refuse inside the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit which the Buka family from the Congo has been too scared to useEmpty drink bottles, cigarette butts and other refuse inside the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit which the Buka family from the Congo has been too scared to use

Empty drink bottles, cigarette butts and other refuse inside the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit which the Buka family from the Congo has been too scared to use

A police car makes one of the now regular patrols around the streets of Tarneit where local African youths have been accused of destroying property and scaring familiesA police car makes one of the now regular patrols around the streets of Tarneit where local African youths have been accused of destroying property and scaring families

A police car makes one of the now regular patrols around the streets of Tarneit where local African youths have been accused of destroying property and scaring families

But the centre of her largely migrant community – the Ecoville park – has long been off-limits. 'Every time when we try to go there, we can't,' Anna says.

Anna calls the Sudanese youths who congregate at the centre 'they' and 'them'.

'We are scared to go there,' she says. 'We're really scared because of them.

'They drink beer. They drink so much beer. They get drunk so much. And when they are drunk they are crazy.'

'There's a little playground there. But there's no one that takes their children there at all.

'That place was for having fun and celebrating parties. That place wasn't like this. It was filled with grass and happiness.'

A young male uses his mobile phone to film police officers as they arrest one of three teenagers taken into custody at Tarneit Central shopping centre on Wednesday afternoonA young male uses his mobile phone to film police officers as they arrest one of three teenagers taken into custody at Tarneit Central shopping centre on Wednesday afternoon

A young male uses his mobile phone to film police officers as they arrest one of three teenagers taken into custody at Tarneit Central shopping centre on Wednesday afternoon

A police officer points his finger at a young African with mobile phone in hand before three teenagers were arrested at Tarneit Central shopping centre on Wedesday afternoon A police officer points his finger at a young African with mobile phone in hand before three teenagers were arrested at Tarneit Central shopping centre on Wedesday afternoon 

A police officer points his finger at a young African with mobile phone in hand before three teenagers were arrested at Tarneit Central shopping centre on Wedesday afternoon

'We never go down there. Other people never go there. People are scared. Really scared.'

Anna is hopeful the recent police presence will make the park accessible to families like hers again.

'After they scare them away everyone can start going there again,' she says.

Mr Buka recalls: 'Before we come into this house that place was a happy place.'

'If they fix that place people can come there and play and have fun with their family there and it can be a happy place once again.

'The people that were there, they break everything. When the people come there and start destroying everything and writing on the walls, no one's able to go there anymore.

'They started fighting with the police and the police wasn't doing anything.

Police patrol the streets of Tarneit near the Ecoville Community Park in Melbourne's west which in recent months has become a no-go zone for local families, particularly after dark Police patrol the streets of Tarneit near the Ecoville Community Park in Melbourne's west which in recent months has become a no-go zone for local families, particularly after dark 

Police patrol the streets of Tarneit near the Ecoville Community Park in Melbourne's west which in recent months has become a no-go zone for local families, particularly after dark

Bibicha Mahungu (left) and Chanel Kyungu (middle) examine the rubbish-strewn Ecoville Community Park's main building with Chanel's son, who did not wish to be named Bibicha Mahungu (left) and Chanel Kyungu (middle) examine the rubbish-strewn Ecoville Community Park's main building with Chanel's son, who did not wish to be named 

Bibicha Mahungu (left) and Chanel Kyungu (middle) examine the rubbish-strewn Ecoville Community Park's main building with Chanel's son, who did not wish to be named

Parts of Cindia Crescent at Tarneit, about 25km west of Melbourne, became a no-go zone at night due to what locals say are unruly youth of Sudanese and South Sudanese descentParts of Cindia Crescent at Tarneit, about 25km west of Melbourne, became a no-go zone at night due to what locals say are unruly youth of Sudanese and South Sudanese descent

Parts of Cindia Crescent at Tarneit, about 25km west of Melbourne, became a no-go zone at night due to what locals say are unruly youth of Sudanese and South Sudanese descent

'They destroyed our life here in Australia.

'When the police start coming they all started running away, now there's only a few of them.'

Tarneit has a large Indian population, many of them Sikhs. Vijay is one of them.

'Most people in Tarneit are Indians,' Vijay says. 'We feel safer if we are with the same race. But that is not the case here.'

Daily Mail Australia spoke to Vijay late in the afternoon when there were no youths gathering at the community centre.

'Maybe the quiet before the storm,' he says. 'It becomes worse after it gets dark.'

'If there is some security going on it becomes calm. But after a few days they come back.'

Asked if he is ever scared, Vijay says: 'Of course.'

Chanel Kyungu (left) walks with her sister Bibicha Mahungu through the trashed Ecoville Community Park in Cindia Crescent at Tarneit about 25km west of Melbourne  Chanel Kyungu (left) walks with her sister Bibicha Mahungu through the trashed Ecoville Community Park in Cindia Crescent at Tarneit about 25km west of Melbourne  

Chanel Kyungu (left) walks with her sister Bibicha Mahungu through the trashed Ecoville Community Park in Cindia Crescent at Tarneit about 25km west of Melbourne

A shopping trolley filled with rubbish stands in the foreground of the Ecoville Community Park which has been so trashed by vandals families cannot use the facilities any moreA shopping trolley filled with rubbish stands in the foreground of the Ecoville Community Park which has been so trashed by vandals families cannot use the facilities any more

A shopping trolley filled with rubbish stands in the foreground of the Ecoville Community Park which has been so trashed by vandals families cannot use the facilities any more

A teenager is restrained by several police outside Tarneit Central shopping centre during a series of violent confrontations which resulted in three arrests on Wednesday afternoon A teenager is restrained by several police outside Tarneit Central shopping centre during a series of violent confrontations which resulted in three arrests on Wednesday afternoon 

A teenager is restrained by several police outside Tarneit Central shopping centre during a series of violent confrontations which resulted in three arrests on Wednesday afternoon

'They try to scare you. Most people stopped walking in this area. It doesn't mean I want to change my route and walk all the way around.'

Vijay points to a row of houses across the road from the community centre which appear to be empty but are in fact accessed from the rear by choice. 'They don't want to be visible,' he says of the occupants.

Mayur Bhavsar has been living in one of those houses for just three weeks. While his home was being built vandals smashed several front windows so he has spent $6000 on roller shutters.

He does not use the front gate.

Mr Bhavsar has also spent $4000 on security cameras and Colorbond fencing to protect the front of his home. 'All up it was $10,000 extra,' he says.

The 42-year-old civil engineer who lives with his wife, 18-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, was impressed when he first saw the community centre before he set up home.

Mayur Bhavsar and his son Marmik outside their home which is across the road from Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, where local youths have destroyed neighbourhood facilitiesMayur Bhavsar and his son Marmik outside their home which is across the road from Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, where local youths have destroyed neighbourhood facilities

Mayur Bhavsar and his son Marmik outside their home which is across the road from Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, where local youths have destroyed neighbourhood facilities

Mayur Bhavsar (left) stands in front of his Tarneit home with son Marmik; Mr Bhavsar has spent $10,000 installing roller shutters and security cameras as well as a Colorbond fence Mayur Bhavsar (left) stands in front of his Tarneit home with son Marmik; Mr Bhavsar has spent $10,000 installing roller shutters and security cameras as well as a Colorbond fence 

Mayur Bhavsar (left) stands in front of his Tarneit home with son Marmik; Mr Bhavsar has spent $10,000 installing roller shutters and security cameras as well as a Colorbond fence

'I thought this was a good place': Mayur Bhavsar thought the Ecoville Community Park (pictured) was a 'great building' when he decided to move into Tarneit; it is now a dump'I thought this was a good place': Mayur Bhavsar thought the Ecoville Community Park (pictured) was a 'great building' when he decided to move into Tarneit; it is now a dump

'I thought this was a good place': Mayur Bhavsar thought the Ecoville Community Park (pictured) was a 'great building' when he decided to move into Tarneit; it is now a dump

'I said this was a great building,' he says. 'Refreshing atmosphere. I thought this was a good place. We thought it will be a good experience.'

'But then when we heard the real story over there,' he says, indicating the community centre, 'it's not a good experience.'

'I don't personally have any trouble with them. Everywhere there is some good and bad people.

'But when people walk around in groups of 15 or 20, then I fear.'

Vikramjeet Singh and his pregnant wife Randeep Kaur, both 34, have lived in a street near the community centre for three months.

'We moved to this area because we thought it was quite nice,' the storeman says. 'We thought it was quite nice, then we got here…'

Mr Singh soon became wary of groups of young men drinking and screaming out in the streets.

Vikramjeet Singh and his pregnant wife Randeep Kaur have been living in Tarneit for about three months and have felt threatened by gangs of youths roaming the suburb's streetsVikramjeet Singh and his pregnant wife Randeep Kaur have been living in Tarneit for about three months and have felt threatened by gangs of youths roaming the suburb's streets

Vikramjeet Singh and his pregnant wife Randeep Kaur have been living in Tarneit for about three months and have felt threatened by gangs of youths roaming the suburb's streets

A flat-screen television that has been smashed and dumped outside the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, which locals came has been a meeting place for unruly African teenagersA flat-screen television that has been smashed and dumped outside the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, which locals came has been a meeting place for unruly African teenagers

A flat-screen television that has been smashed and dumped outside the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, which locals came has been a meeting place for unruly African teenagers

Police arrest one of three teenagers who were detained at the Tarneit shopping centre, about 25km west of Melbourne's CBD, after a violent confrontation on Wednesday afternoonPolice arrest one of three teenagers who were detained at the Tarneit shopping centre, about 25km west of Melbourne's CBD, after a violent confrontation on Wednesday afternoon

Police arrest one of three teenagers who were detained at the Tarneit shopping centre, about 25km west of Melbourne's CBD, after a violent confrontation on Wednesday afternoon

'One night a few weeks back there were six or seven police cars,' he says. 'From last week, it's very quiet.'

Mr Singh's sister's children, a girl, 5, and a boy, 11, used to enjoy using the community centre's skate park until they encountered a group of loutish youths who shouted at them.

'They said 'uncle, we don't want to go in this park again'.

'It's very scary living around here to walk around.'

'This country gave us all the opportunity so we have to respect it. Everyone should have to.'

Truck driver Diljot Singh, 22, and his food shop manager brother Randeep, 20, have lived across from the community centre in Cindia Crescent for about four months.

'Before the whole police operation began we were very scared to go out of an evening,' the older Mr Singh says.

His brother recalls one day when he was playing basketball on the community centre court when '10 or 20' African youths attacked him and his friends, throwing rocks.

Inside the Ecoville Community Park centre at Tarneit after it had been destroyed by vandals locals say are young members of the local Sudanese and South Sudanese communityInside the Ecoville Community Park centre at Tarneit after it had been destroyed by vandals locals say are young members of the local Sudanese and South Sudanese community

Inside the Ecoville Community Park centre at Tarneit after it had been destroyed by vandals locals say are young members of the local Sudanese and South Sudanese community

Joseph Esau says the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, west of Melbourne, which has been destroyed by youth street gangs, was a great place for families until about eight months agoJoseph Esau says the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, west of Melbourne, which has been destroyed by youth street gangs, was a great place for families until about eight months ago

Joseph Esau says the Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, west of Melbourne, which has been destroyed by youth street gangs, was a great place for families until about eight months ago

Graffiti at the trashed Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, in Melbourne's western suburbs, has been attributed to African street gangs including 'MTS' or Menace To Society  Graffiti at the trashed Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, in Melbourne's western suburbs, has been attributed to African street gangs including 'MTS' or Menace To Society  

Graffiti at the trashed Ecoville Community Park at Tarneit, in Melbourne's western suburbs, has been attributed to African street gangs including 'MTS' or Menace To Society

'We moved in in August and by September I was feeling I was in the wrong place,' he says.

'We just don't feel safe.'

Joseph Esau, a 43-year-old assistant store manager, has lived in nearby Mazel Street for two years with his partner, 12-year-old daughter and son, 15.

'I had a friend who used to look after that community centre,' he says. 'When he was doing it the place was perfect.'

'It was a good community hall. All the kids used to play basketball and stuff.'

That was until about eight months ago.

'The place is wrecked,' Mr Esau says. 'People used to play chess there. There's no way you could do that there now. People used to take their dogs there. You can't do that now.

'From afar you'd think man, it looks nice, but you get up close…'

Joseph Esau has lived in Mazel Street, Tarneit, for two years and says he has never felt unsafe in his home but is disappointed the community centre can no longer be used for its purposeJoseph Esau has lived in Mazel Street, Tarneit, for two years and says he has never felt unsafe in his home but is disappointed the community centre can no longer be used for its purpose

Joseph Esau has lived in Mazel Street, Tarneit, for two years and says he has never felt unsafe in his home but is disappointed the community centre can no longer be used for its purpose

Bibicha Mahungu (left) and Chanel Kyungu (middle) examine the rubbish-strewn Ecoville Community Park's main building with Chanel's son, who did not wish to be namedBibicha Mahungu (left) and Chanel Kyungu (middle) examine the rubbish-strewn Ecoville Community Park's main building with Chanel's son, who did not wish to be named

Bibicha Mahungu (left) and Chanel Kyungu (middle) examine the rubbish-strewn Ecoville Community Park's main building with Chanel's son, who did not wish to be named

Police arrest a teenager outside the Tarneit Central shopping centre in Melbourne's west on Wednesday afternoon after a violent confrontation with up to 20 African youths Police arrest a teenager outside the Tarneit Central shopping centre in Melbourne's west on Wednesday afternoon after a violent confrontation with up to 20 African youths 

Police arrest a teenager outside the Tarneit Central shopping centre in Melbourne's west on Wednesday afternoon after a violent confrontation with up to 20 African youths

The New Zealander says he sometimes sees youths speeding in cars on his street but they tend to leave his neighbours alone.

'There's a lot of Kiwis in this street and a couple of bikies across the road and they probably know not to start up too much trouble. They pick their targets.

'At the moment a lot of people are talking about the Sudanese but my experience is that with some of the other younger kids they are all right.

'When they get in bigger packs they'll show off. They just feed off each other.

'Sometimes the boys aren't local boys. They'll cause the grief in the neighbourhood and then they'll wander off. They just run in packs.

'Gauging from where these kids come from, they're lucky to be here.'

Mr Esau says he has never felt unsafe in his Tarneit home.

'I'm hoping it's a phase,' he says. 'We've got a massive police presence here now.'

'If you look for trouble in any suburb you can find it.'

Marked police cars have been patrolling the streets of Tarneit in Melbourne's west this week after months of trouble involving African youth gangs reported by law-abiding residentsMarked police cars have been patrolling the streets of Tarneit in Melbourne's west this week after months of trouble involving African youth gangs reported by law-abiding residents

Marked police cars have been patrolling the streets of Tarneit in Melbourne's west this week after months of trouble involving African youth gangs reported by law-abiding residents

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Australia

Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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